This year the State University of New York at Oswego celebrates it’s 10th annual Global Awareness Conference! The conference was conceived by Rhonda Mandel, then Dean of College of Liberal Arts & Sciences, and Rebecca Burch, a faculty member from Human Development. The chief objectives of the conference were and still are:
- to engage the greater SUNY Oswego community in conversations and debates about issues of global significance
- provide exposure to cultures and customs outside of the US
- AND also to build community within Hart Hall itself.
Hart Hall is the Global Living and Learning Center on campus. It’s a unique residential experience because it exposes and challenges them to think about the world outside the United States. Embedded in SUNY Oswego’s vision statement is globalization as the vision of the university is to empower students to build a better world. So much of the motivation for the conference ties in to the greater vision of the college itself.
Students, staff, faculty, administrators, and the public all attend the Global Awareness Conference. The programs offered during the conference are of a large variety, including:
- panel discussions
- information tables
- poster sessions
The demonstrations, performances, poster sessions and exhibits especially allow engagement, participation, and discussion with the program presenters.
Papers submitted by students attending the conference is probably our most authentic means of assessment. All students living in Hart Hall must take a one credit IST course. Most of the conference programs meet the criteria for being an IST program (must focus on culture outside of US and be educational). Students have to attend six such programs throughout the semester. When students attend programs they write a reflective paper about it. These get evaluated by our graduate residence mentors (GRMs) and are the basis for student grades, along with doing community service. When students attend the conference they can choose to attend programs in order to satisfy their IST requirements and then submit a paper for each program they attended.
People can see that SUNY Oswego values global awareness in many different ways. It is most apparent in the resources being put in at many levels to ensure access for students to have experiences abroad, as well as engaging with issues of a global nature while on campus. Hart Hall as a residence hall exemplifies an opportunity for students to have many contact points with international students (the hall has the largest international student population on campus) and exposure to the IST programming which offers over 300 programs per year to students.
Campus at large has a very active Office of International Education (OIEP) offering many study and research abroad experiences for students every year. The latter, called Global Labs, has been hugely popular with STEM students looking for research experiences over summer breaks and the opportunity to gain experience abroad.
There is also an Institute for Global Engagement (IGE) that produces thematic programs of an international nature. This year is themed around Brazil. Consequently there are a lot of programs revolving around Brazil on campus throughout this coming academic year.
Finally, I see that global engagement and awareness being infused in faculty hiring. The faculty itself is becoming more diverse with professors coming from all over the world. This certainly informs their teaching.
Advice for starting a Global Awareness Conference at your institution:
Demonstrating is an action word so it starts with being actively engaged and willing to put actions to words. Talk to faculty, staff, and students to see what moves their world beyond the classroom. If there’s a strong innate drive in the campus community to engage in global topics, then that’s half the battle. Working closely with members of the campus community, start with small and achievable goals and build from there. Having buy in from faculty, staff, and students will be key for sustaining efforts. This is especially true if the goal is to engage everybody on campus. You can’t just direct it at students, or at faculty. Academic institutions draw strength from bringing together multiple view points in an environment where we all share in our intellectual pursuits. That should not be forgotten.
This post is part of our #SAinternational series. We will hear from #SApros who work in international student related services. We’ll also hear from those those who have had the fortunate opportunity to work overseas or have a global perspective to higher education. For more info, please see Kim Irland’s intro post. Be sure to check out other posts in this series.
> BONUS <
Podcast With Alison Scheide on Study Abroad Programs